LinkedIn is the world-wide leading professional network with an impressive and growing membership of 120 MILLION LinkedIn members. Members of LinkedIn are connected to professionals to network, exchange ideas, learn about job opportunities, and connect with other professionals with a broader network. This short video shares more about the purpose and role of LinkedIn as a professional social network.
Students Establishing Themselves as Upcoming Professionals
One great benefit of college students utilizing LinkedIn prior to graduation is establishing themselves as an expert and upcoming professional in their career field. Have you ever Googled yourself lately? If you have a LinkedIn profile, chances are your profile will come to the top of the page. In today’s competitive job market, students now more than ever need to start connecting with fellow peers, established business professionals, and join groups and organizations to expand their knowledge and learning experience. When considering using an ePortfolio as part of your course curriculum, consider the goal of such an assignment. Do you want students to be able to showcase their work in school as part of advertising themselves to gain the appeal of a potential employer? Are you giving students the opportunity to use an online portfolio system to prepare them for technology they will use in their schooling or career? Do you hope that students will one day share their ePortfolio with a potential employer? If you answered yes to any one of these questions, LinkedIn may be able to meet your short and long-term needs. Students also have a greater ability to control their privacy settings in most cases more so than a traditional ePortfolio. In most ePortfolio systems, students either have to make the entire portfolio public or private, regardless of the contents inside. Using a LinkedIn profile, students have a better ability to control who in their personal network and broader network can see their profile and the contents within it.
Staying In-Touch, Reaching Out, and Learning Beyond the Classroom
A traditional ePortfolio, regardless of the provider, gives students limited, if any, ability to connect and STAY connected with peers, professors, and professionals. According to the United States Department of Labor (2010), the average person won’t have the same job 4.1 years from the start date of employment. If the current trend for students is to complete a Bachelor of Arts Degree in 4-5 years, how will students be able to stay connected with professionals they may have shown their ePortfolio’s during their time in college? The benefit of a LinkedIn account is the address book that updates whenever a change is made to a user’s profile. This means the great reference your student made in a course taken their first year of college can be easily found, regardless of where or what job the contact has, by staying connected on LinkedIn. In addition, students can use communication and collaboration tools through LinkedIn to stay in touch with connections in their network and reach out to potential professional contacts in a broader network.
Another advantage for students is utilizing the LinkedIn network to reach out to communities, groups, and professionals to ask questions and share ideas to problem-solve or even brainstorm solutions. Using tools, such as Answers and Groups in addition to the detailed search engine, students now have the ability to ask questions and learn beyond the classroom by reaching out to their current network or even make new connections in a broader network of professionals. Indeed, we want students to maintain a professional demeanor while they are students and in some cases, this is a trait that has to be learned through mentoring or even trial and error. As an instructor, however, one has the ability to guide students in this new territory and provide an opportunity to showcase their work while in the classroom.
Linking an ePortfolio to LinkedIn
Still standing firm on using an ePortfolio site? You can AND still utilize LinkedIn. If your school uses a standardized ePortfolio site across all courses, one can still utilize that site and link in a LinkedIn profile. Each LinkedIn user has the ability to customize three links on their profile page. Often, users will link a website, blog, or personal website. As long as you have a world wide web address, a student could link their ePortfolio to their Profile page as a Website. LinkedIn has a customized “Portfolio” title as a display label for linking any ePortfolio site or students can customize a display label with a title that is personal to them, such as My Website or ePortfolio. Regardless, this feature may be a win-win solution for instructors who are looking to use a standard or traditional ePortfolio site but searching for opportunities for students to fully utilize networking opportunities to showcase their portfolio work with professionals in a broader network.
The best part of LinkedIn is that it is free and students have full control of what happens to their profile after graduation. I recommend utilizing LinkedIn at some level if you plan on using ePortfolios because students have endless opportunities to network with professionals, in addition to showcasing their work, while they are still in school.
United States Department of Labor. (2010, September 14). Employee Tenure in 2010. Retrieved from http://www.bls.gov/news.release/tenure.nr0.htm